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Prior to World War II, geraniums were produced primarily as a crop to follow regular-season chrysanthemums in our northern greenhouses. Each grower would carry over most of his own stock from year to year, and only occasionally buy, borrow or trade a few new and different cultivars from other local houses and florist shops.

As greenhouse operators began to use more efficient heating and cooling devices, the interest and increased production of geraniums to the consumer has not abated, and in fact is the major ornamental crop produced throughout the world.

Of all the ornamental flowering or zonal leafed plants, the geranium is most preferred by the home grower. Geranium is the common name that is used to describe the plants in the family geraniaceae. The root word geranion, is greek from geranos a crane, referring to the beak-like fruits.

Our own native Alberta woodland geranium is perennial, and known as the cranesbill. To identify the popular greenhouse variety of the pelargonium, we cut through the botanics, and simply call them by the most recognized name as: geraniums, or the acceptable 'hortorium'. Other well known sub species of the pelargonium are the scented and multi-colored leaves, like the pansy and Martha Washington 'pellars'.

Propagation of geraniums by vegetative cuttings will insure an exact copy of the parent plant. Healthy cuttings and vigorous rooting depends upon the health and vitality of the stock plant.

Before taking your cuttings, the stock plant should be watered to leech out impurities, using enough water to begin running almost clear from the pot drain holes. Now water with a triple 20 fertilizer at the rate of that recommended for mature plants. Make sure no pests or disease are showing on the plant stems or at the base of the growth, just above the soil line.

Preparation and observation are critical to good growing techniques.

Success in rooting geranium cuttings in a timely manner is dependant upon a bottom heat source not exceeding temps of 75-80 degrees F (20-25 degrees C).

Horticultural heating mats are available from many sources, and if you require a much larger base, heat cables can be ordered from some local horticultural outlets, and come in varying lengths, from 16 to 240 feet.

The media used often by growers to root vegetative cuttings is perlite. A medium grind of the volcanic rock will allow air to the base of the cuttings and evaporate moisture slowly, while holding the all-important bottom heat at the target area of the root zone.

Some growers will fill cells with perlite and 'stick' the plant stems to individualize each cutting. Another popular method, is to fill flats with the perlite and stick the cuttings in rows to a maximum of 40 stems in a 11 1/2" X 22" greenhouse flat.

Now let's see how it's done!

Figure 1: Stock plant held over winter in its combination outdoor patio planter pot.

Figure 2: Clear cutting is not the practical method of renewing your stock plant to rejuvenation. Balance the selection of cuttings to leave smaller growth that will 'fill out' and continue to a possible second set of later cutting material.

Figure 3: Choose a healthy solid cutting, then, with a sharp knife or pruning clipper, cut the growth, leaving a 2-3" stump complete with a few leaves to aid more new growth.

Figure 4: The perfect cutting specimen: well grown, with capable potential of a rooted cutting in four weeks.

Figure 5: Knowing what to cut off the stem of your cutting is important to its rooting ability. Knowing the botanic name of these 'bits' increases your botanic knowledge, as well as a topic of really boring facts you can recite to your friends.

Figure 6: You can see the various parts of the cutting excised from the stem, leaving the cutting ready to be dipped into the rooting hormone powder.

Figure 7: A single pot ready with wetted perlite, and the opening to secure your cutting to a depth of 2-3".

Figure 8: Pinching, or firming the perlite around the cutting base is very important, after 'sticking'. The procedure guarantees the cutting will stand straight, and not lean or fall over when being misted with the hand pump container. Warm/bright conditions, with periodic misting during the day will enable the cutting to produce a root system, ready for re-potting or transplanting. See figure 9.

Figure 9: A fine speciman. No fertilizer will be necessary during the rooting process, but after potting on into soilless mix, you can reward the plant with a tonic of 20-20-20.




A Brief Summary for Future Geranium Cuttings:

1. Grow geraniums on in bright natural light and cool day/night temperatures of +8 to +10 C or 45-55 degrees F

2. Water only when dry

3. Fertilize after the 5th watering with 20-20-20

4. Clean any dry or yellowing leaves

5. If the plant is compact, and the growth is short with healthy leaves, place the plant(s) below the light source, so the stems will reach for the light, giving you better cutting stem lengths

6. Check for disease and bugs, control as necessary
7. Early cuttings can be struck mid February to mid March


Natures Packaging of a Rooting Aid

A natural product that hastens rooting on early cuttings of geraniums/coleus/fuchsias: Auxin is a naturally occurring chemical, that when released by environmental conditions in the early spring, aids root growth. The auxin is concentrated in the new buds on trees and shrubs , and when diluted by rain or heavy dew, even late snowfall, the auxin will release the chemical to be taken in by the tree or shrub through the plants system, and transfer it to the root zone.

Of all our local growing trees or shrubs, the poplar and willow have the highest concentration of auxin at the ends of the branches. If you are rooting cuttings in water, a stem cut from either the poplar or willow, and added to a separate container of water

In more normal situations, cuttings are rooted in perlite, peat moss and sand, or vermiculite. Gather the willow end shoots as hardwood cuttings (poplar has less auxin) and stand them in a jar of tap water for a day or so. As a very general or optimum concentration of auxins is difficult to measure, use 12 stems in a quart of tepid water. Use your auxin to water the leaves of cuttings, after sticking in the rooting mix.

NB: Very soft tissued cuttings of coleus, and end cuttings of fuchsias or geraniums, may not form a protective film on the cut end, so dipping the ends in the 'auxinated' water will work fine. Heavier cuttings of older wood from geraniums or pellargoniums and most houseplants can be misted or sprayed with the auxin water as they settle in. Misting with auxin is not a replacement for intermittent misting, as the cutting begins to callous and produce root. Two or three times of auxin water during the first week of your cutting in the root media, and on bottom heat should be enough to generate a uniformity of rooting.

Once rooting begins, water your cutting with the willow water, and save enough for their first drink after potting the cuttings.

NB: Once buds show to develop on the willow, the auxin has been used, and will not be in a concentrate useful for your rooting stock. Therefore, take cuttings in Jan/Feb, and store in ziploc bags in the freezer for early spring use on later cuttings.




All images contained herein are the © property of Stan Thompson, What's Up Stan and/or Great Gardens & Gargoyles